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E-waste to Africa - Prosecutions for Illegally Exporting Electrical Waste

By Simon Kent - 19 Nov 2010 13:4:0 GMT
Prosecutions for Illegally Exporting Electrical Waste to Africa

Eleven people and four companies have been successfully prosecuted for illegally exporting electrical waste from the UK to West Africa.

A two-year investigation found 'a network of individuals, waste companies and export businesses' involved in sending waste overseas, and committing offences under the Transfrontier Shipment of Waste Regulations 2007 and the European Waste Shipment Regulations 2006.

According to the Environment Agency's National Environmental Crime Team Manager, Andy Higham: 
“Exporters of broken electricals put at risk the lives of those who work on waste sites in developing countries. These are often children who are paid a pittance to dismantle products containing hazardous waste. Illegal exporters also avoid the costs of recycling in the UK and undermine law-abiding business."

He continued: 
“It is always a crime to export broken electricals and hazardous waste from the UK to developing countries to be dumped. The last thing we want is our waste causing harm to people or the environment overseas.”

Electrical waste such as mobile phones, television and computers can contain harmful contaminants including mercury and lead. With over six million electrical items being thrown away every year there is a significant demand for the correct and traceable recycling and disposal of these items.

Simon Walsh, co-founder of ShP limited, a regulated electronics recycling business noted that the recent prosecution was clear evidence that the Environment Agency is now keen to investigate and prosecute companies and organisations who are either involved directly in the illegal disposal of waste or who, knowingly or not, use such a company's services.

"Businesses exporting waste illegally need to be made an example of," Mr Walsh said."The message is getting clearer – and authorities are getting tougher."

"Businesses may not realise they're doing anything wrong, but this will be no excuse. They must audit the businesses they use to recycle their old electronics."

The recent prosecutions are unlikely to be unique: Half of the 18 investigations currently being run by the Environment Agency's National Crime Team concern this kind of illegal exportation. A further four prosecutions are listed to appear in court in the near future.

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Topics: Waste